Thursday, September 8, 2011



Maxime Mary Interview

Tell me a little bit about yourself, about your life? Where did you go to school, and what classes did you study? What helped prepare you to become the artist that you are today?

Well, I grew up in France, with Mum and Dad, and I don't really remember when I started to draw. I was the only child, and I remember that I was always watching Disney classics, or popular cartoons and comics in France (Astérix, Spirou, Lucky Luke...). I was drawing all these characters, everywhere. At first, I wanted to be a comic artist, so I did my studies with the will of becoming a drawer. After my “baccalauréat “(equivalent to A-level in America), I entered an Art School, l'Ecole Pivaut in Nantes, where I studied the basics (anatomy, painting...). Then I had the choice between comics, illustration and animation, and I choose the last one, thinking I will be able to learn more techniques than in the other subjects. And I loved it!

After, I passed the exam to enter the Gobelins, in Paris, where I learned traditional animation with some amazing artists, and met the other students who are my friends now. I loved this experience, and I progressed a lot.

The best thing that happened to me is that I went to Los Angeles in summer 2010 to do an internship at the Walt Disney Animation Studios, in visual development. I was blown away by the work of these artists since I was a little kid, and I had the luck to meet them and work with them.

It was the best experience of my life. In September 2010, I began my third year at Gobelins, where I did a graduation film with some of my friends, which is called “Who’s afraid of Mr. Greedy? “. I graduated in July, and I'm now working between different studios in Paris.

How do you go about designing, and what goes through your mind, from start to end?

To be honest, designing characters is a bit new for me. Ok, I always drew and imagined characters, but the technique of designing for animation, I only started it 3 or 4 years ago. And I'm focusing on it since my internship at Disney 1 year ago. But this is what I want to do for living.

This is fascinating, the fact that we can give an identity to a character. I love to think about the feelings of each of them. This is a super power! I can do what I want, but the character needs to be believable. And my work is to find the little details that can help it: the clothes, the posing, the hair cut... everything helps to define a character. I love Pixar's films for their ability to find these little details and add them to fishes, robots, toys, and make them believable (if we're able to cry in front of Toy Story, it's because we're able to think that the toys are real).

I like the link between the story and the design. In fact, I love that someone gives me a text with a character description, in order that I design it. Then I think how he moves, how he speaks, what are his bad habits...

Learning traditional animation at Gobelins has been very helpful for me because I had to design AND animate the characters. I had to decide how they should move, what they couldn't do because of their feelings... This is the best exercise to understand how much it is important to think about every detail while designing the character.

About my technique, I work mostly on Photoshop. I think about a basic shape, do a rapid sketch of my idea and then, I add a layer on top of it and finish the drawing straight ahead. I work with two techniques of “cleaning “. The first one is a basic inking inspired by what did Ronald Searle; I like the texture of the inking, and the fact that you must work with the accidents (I try to work without a lot of Ctrl+Z to keep something spontanious in the line). I love to do life drawing with black ink and paper. I also work by coloring my character with 4 or 5 colors, very rough, and add texture and little details with a little brush I made. It's like sculpting, in a way.

I'm still at the beginning of understanding how character design works, but I like the moment when an idea comes into my head, and I must hurry up to put it on the screen or on the paper. After that, it's a question of shapes, straights and curves, but the most important, the ability to surprise ourselves.

What is a typical day for you, and who are the people you work with?

These days, I'm working at home, so this is not very exciting. I'm working for freelance projects, with a cup of milk and cereals. But the evening, I see my friends from Gobelins, or older friends, with who I have projects. It's important, just after the school, to keep the will of creating new things, by our own or with friends. I want to do character design, so during my free time, I try to learn some basics, like drawing hands, poses. I want to explore, find new ideas...
And I look at the blogs a lot.

What are some of the things that you have worked on?

I just graduated, so my experience is not impressive. I'm proud of the film I made this year at Gobelins with my friends Simon Boucachard, Adeline Grange, Julien Rossire, Guillaume Fesquet, Jean Baptiste Cumont and Sylvain Fabre.
We wanted to do a cartoon with horror, and we had a lot of fun doing it.
It's called “ Who's afraid of Mr Greedy ? “, as I said earlier. I also worked with some other friends on an opening short for the Annecy's festival, in France, which is called “Red River Bay “.
I did a few character designs for a studio in Paris, but that's it, for the moment.
I'm starting my career, so I will be able to answer you in 2 years!

Is there a design you have done that you are most happy with?

Hum... hard to have a look on his own work. Maybe the ogre, the Mr. greedy of our short film. I like him, because since the beginning, we imagined him very well. We knew how he felt, who he was in the past, and it has been very exciting to design him. The spectator had to understand that he was an ogre, violent, wild, mean, big, but also that he owned a creepy theme park. So, he was able to think about traps to kill children, and be very clever about not being caught with this illegal business.

I had to design this monster, with a twisted look, able to roar and eat children, but with the clothes of a fairground entertainer, something like a hair cut, a bow tie and other different details that approach him to a normal human.

It was fun, and I really enjoyed doing the model pack for the animators (I was one of them too). It felt good, because I learned a lot during my internship at Disney. I also have to thank my mentor from there, Shiyoon Kim, who is an incredible artist.

What projects are you working on now? (If you can tell us)

As I said, I'm working with some friends on short film, but it's the beginning, and I can't tell more about it. Same thing for my professional work, it's confidential because it's in development.

Who are some of your favorite artists out there?

What a question. A lot of people have influenced me every day. But I'm able to give you some names. First, I would say Cyril Pedrosa, he is a French comic artist, who did Gobelins and worked at Disney when there was a studio in Paris. He's just incredible. I invite everybody who doesn't know his work to have a look on his blog:
Then, we have Carter Goodrich, Robin Joseph, Mael Gourmelen, Shiyoon Kim, Sam Bosma, Leo Matsuda, Mike Thomas, Bastien Vives, Sylvain Marc, Shane Prigmore, Uli Meyer, Andrew Sheik, Peter de Seve, Nicolas Marlet, Juanjo Guarnido, Franquin, Janry, Zep, Enrique Fernandez, MILT KAHL...

Could you talk about your process in coloring your art, as well as the types of tools or media that you use?

I work with a Wacom tablet, mostly on Photoshop. I like to paint my character in black and white, just to focus on the contrast. Then I add colors with another layer. I made different brushes that help me paint with a basic texture, but easily. I love to work the line of the main shapes, stress it.

And adding some hairs everywhere, some folds, is very fascinating for me!
Sometimes I only work the line, without adding a color, sometimes I don't want any line and I work with big colored shapes that I refine with details. I'm working with the will of finding the good color, and not satisfy myself by adding gradient maps. But it's not easy, and sometimes I have to cheat.

What part of designing is most fun and easy, and what is most difficult?

For me it's pretty simple, if it's going to work as I wanted since the beginning, it will be easy and I will enjoy it. In the other case, when I'm not able to draw what I have in mind, it's frustrating.
But sometimes, I will enjoy the quick sketch, and won't be able to go further. Sometimes, I must add texture and details to enjoy the drawing. So, to answer your question, it depends.

What are some of the things that you do to keep yourself creative?

The most important thing for me is keep working with people. They can help you; show you how they would have done it. I love the challenge to find exactly what the most efficient thing is I'm able to propose. But for this, I need to speak with my friends, or the supervisor, just to understand the key points. Following this way, I can focus on exploring things, in a right way.
I can't stand people telling me “draw what you want “! If they say “draw me a pirate, with a parrot on the shoulder, a wooden leg, big hat, beard, stripes, blue, yellow... “, I will be happy.
It's also important to ask another person to give his point of view.

What are some of your favorite designs which you have seen?

I love the work of Daniel Lopez Munoz on “Up “(Pixar). I have the art book at home, and this is stunning to see how he illustrated the sadness and the loneliness of the main character, Carl. I also love all the characters from “Dragons “ designed by Nicolas Marlet. I would love to be so efficient. And of course, all the characters from “The Incredibles “ which are simply perfect.

What is your most favorite subject to draw? And why?

Hum, maybe animals, wearing human clothes. I love to give an identity to animals. It's pretty common in animation, but I think we can go further in the way of finding the right animal to define a character. I love the sadness of a basset hound, because it is very graphic. I love how the differences of shapes between the races can be used to create a very good line up. And because it's metaphoric.

What inspired you to become an Artist?

I'm not from a family of artists. I was just fascinated by the heroes I saw when I was young. I think it has been evident all my life. I mean, I never wanted to do something else; I knew that I wanted to draw. When I discovered at school, after the college, that I was able to make a living with it, I thought I was right since the beginning.

Last summer, I met Andreas Deja at Disney (one of the most amazing animators today), and I told him that I knew that I wanted to draw characters the day I saw the trailer of the Lion King on the video of Aladdin. This was not a trailer, but a teaser, showing that Walt Disney Studios were making an incredible story with lions. And I saw a room full of artists, with a real lion in front of them. They were doing life drawing with a REAL LION! The day I saw it, I definitely knew that I wanted to do this job.

When I told this little story to Andreas Deja, he just answered me that he was in this room... I knew that it was one of the best jobs ever.

What are some of the neat things you have learned from other artists that you have worked with or seen?

There are two or three things very important that my mentor Shiyoon taught me. The main shapes between the characters, how I can create a contrast between two characters, only with this idea of shapes. This is simple. But I focused on it, and I discovered that everything we decide while designing a character must follow this basic shape. And it's very helpful. Another thing is how I can be inspired by actors, and study how they speak, how they move, to add these details on my designs. For example, how a character can speak by using this upper lips more than the lower.

I also learned a lot from the teachers I had at Gobelins, who helped me think about the character before animate him. How he feels, what he manages to do, etc...

What wisdom could you give us, about being an Artist? Do you have any tips you could give?

DRAW. Be curious, look at everything about culture: cinema, music, books, museums... DRAW.

If people would like to contact you, how would you like to be contacted?

I've got an email:

They can also visit my blog, where they will find links to see my portfolio, my films, and my friend's blogs at

Finally, do you have any of your art work for sale (sketchbook, prints, or anything) for people that like your work can know where and when to buy it?

I don't have anything to sale, actually I never tried. But if people want to ask me anything, feel free to email me.

Maxime Mary Gallery